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What does a future-proof sales representative look like?

For years, the role of the pharma sales representative has followed a uniform approach, a tried and tested method for selling to Health Care Professionals: field reps deployed across the roads, handling face-to-face appointments, and waiting for clinicians to become available. But in recent years pharma has changed, and businesses can no longer afford to continue with a traditional model in an ever-changing, modern world.

The environment in which pharma companies operate, is changing. In fact, it changed a long time ago but many businesses have been slow to embrace new measures to adapt. Many people are afraid of change, and forge ahead with the mind set of ‘we’ve always done it this way’, which in the end will only hinder those businesses chance of survival.

What’s changed?

The NHS, and the healthcare industry as a whole, have endured a period of rapid change. Decreasing budgets and tighter time restraints mean that accessing NHS customers is an escalating challenge. Add to this, the ever changing developments in communication technology, and it’s clear to see that we are operating in different times to those of 10, or even 5 years ago.

Technology has driven a change in customer preferences

With such vast leaps in the world of technology, there has been a shift in attitude towards digital communication. In all aspects of our lives, we are given a choice – be it banking, shopping, keeping fit, and even socialising – we can choose between various channels: social media, online, mobile apps, email, and not forgetting face-to-face! People have adapted to a digital world and expectations have changed.

So it should come as no surprise that the HCPs pharma companies are targeting have individual preferences too. Not all HCPs will respond well to the phone, some simply prefer emails, and this medium should not be underestimated.  The HCP audience is also getting younger, and more adept at mastering technology, so when time is so valuable, they will reach out to all available channels to garner information.

Paul Black, Chief Operating Officer at OUTiCO, says “We have had some superb results with our Multi-Channel approach over the last few years. The response of Health Care professionals to new technology has been extremely positive, and we routinely receive feedback that a flexible approach that considers their time and preference is refreshing.

Digital communication still has a long way to go, but every time we successfully, and professionally engage a HCP we increase understanding of the benefits this can offer busy clinicians who need to stay up to date with Pharmaceutical developments.”

The future sales rep 

Embracing Multi-Channel – Strong business acumen and excellent negotiation skills, of course, will remain important but to keep pace with the HCPs of today, sales reps need to engage successfully across all available channels. An approach that works for one HCP, may not work for another. Some will enjoy face-to-face meetings, whilst others may prefer a screen share teleconference. It’s about treating people as individuals and adapting behaviour to suit their preference.  

Harness new technologies – HCPs are open to different modes of communication. Video conferencing allows reps to have a conversation as well as evaluating facial expressions and body language, without the need of a long car journey. Screen sharing is an engaging and easy way to share important documents and discuss valuable information, and email is both quick and efficient.

Actively listen – Sales reps need to offer more than simply e-detailing alone. Gone are the days of generic data presentations – these brand value propositions should only form one part of a much richer process. E-detailing doesn’t provide the opportunity to tailor a message accordingly. Instead, sales reps must have the ability to interpret people’s issues, and truly understand the needs of both the customer and their patients. Talking at your customer without understanding their needs will not necessarily drive a change in prescribing behaviour.

The future is bright

The next generation of pharma sales reps won’t follow a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. They will be multi-channel communicators, educating HCPs about alternative ways to communicate, and putting their preferences at the heart of everything they do.

Using different channels, these sales professionals can successfully engage with HCPs, whilst accelerating productivity, and remaining cost-efficient.

It is this sustainable method that will ensure a bright future for any company that embraces the change.


To find out more about Multi-Channel Account Management, click here, or call OUTiCO for an informal chat on 0330 223 0300.

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